Macron and Putin hold 'extremely frank talks'

He added: "President of France Macron, taking Merkel with him in search of truth, can visit the Chechen Republic". Macron even took a rare shot at Russia's state-run foreign news agencies, warning them they "cease to be journalists" when they spread "slanderous falsehoods". He clarified that it was not just Trump, but also the Russian and Turkish leaders who weigh relationships in the form of a balance of power but he himself did not see it that way.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation further reports that Putin defensively said (of the French election), "Do you think that we are ignorant of the results of the elections?" Standing side-by-side in the opulent surroundings of the Gallery of Great Battles, the two leaders initially appeared to be on the same page, pledging to work together to fight terrorism.

Evidence published last month has indicated the Assad regime had used toxic sarin gas on the town of Khan Sheikhun, an attack that provoked the USA to launch missiles on a Syrian air base in its first targeted attack against the Syrian president's forces.

France's youngest ever president made a successful debut on the world stage last week, holding his own against Trump at a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels and winning plaudits from his peers at a G7 summit in Italy.

The Russian president didn't respond to Macron's comments about the chemical "red line". "He knows immediately, from the off, that they are not on his side, they are not his friends", Nixey said, adding that it is hard to say how Putin will react to Macron's actions.

Both sides though sought to present Putin's visit, which was meant to mark 300 years since Tsar Peter the Great visited France, as an occasion to relaunch Franco-Russian relations.

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Last fall, Putin abruptly canceled a visit to France after Macron's predecessor, Francois Hollande, decried Russian bombings in the Syrian city of Aleppo as a "war crime".

The pair also discussed the Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its encroachment on neighbouring Ukraine as well as allegations of Russian meddling in France's presidential campaign.

"The use of chemical weapons by anyone will be the object of reprisals and immediate retaliation on the part of France", he said.

"I will be demanding in my exchanges with Russia", Macron said after the G7 summit on Saturday.

Putin has backed Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has been accused of using chemical weapons, including in April.

Information for this article was contributed by James McAuley of The Washington Post; by Sylvie Corbet, John Leicester and Vladimir Isachenkov of The Associated Press; and by Alissa J. Rubin, Aurelien Breeden, Benoit Morenne, Ivan Nechepurenko and Oleg Matsnev of The New York Times.

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